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Matter of Grabler

January 11, 1989

IN THE MATTER OF JOSEPH P. GRABLER, AN ATTORNEY AT LAW

CORRECTED ORDER

The Disciplinary Review Board having filed a report recommending that JOSEPH P. GRABLER of MIDDLETOWN, who was admitted to the Bar in this State in 1964, be suspended from the practice of law for one year for conduct in violation of DR 1-102(A)(1), (3), (4), and (6); DR 6-101(A)(1); DR 7-101(A)(1), (2) and (3); DR 7-102(A)(3), (5), and (8), and DR 9-102, and good cause appearing;

It is ORDERED that the findings of the Disciplinary Review Board are hereby adopted and JOSEPH P. GRABLER is suspended from the practice of law for one year and until further order of this Court, effective February 1, 1989; and it is further

Ordered that JOSEPH P. GRABLER reimburse the Ethics Financial Committee for appropriate administrative costs, including the production of transcripts; and it is further

Ordered that JOSEPH P. GRABLER be restrained and enjoined from practicing law during the period of his suspension; and it is further

Ordered that JOSEPH P. GRABLER comply with Administrative Guideline Number 23 of the Office of Attorney Ethics dealing with suspended, disbarred or resigned attorneys.

Decision and Recommendation of the Disciplinary Review Board

To the Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

This matter is before the Board based upon two presentments filed by the District VIII (Middlesex County) Ethics Committee.

THE SEAMAN MATTER

On or about October 1, 1981, respondent was retained by Carole and Walter Seaman to represent them in a real estate matter. In October 1980, the Seamans had entered into an agreement to purchase a house owned by Mr. Seaman's parents. Upon reaching an agreement, the parties retained one

attorney to represent both sides in the transaction. However, after the initial closing date had to be delayed due to the illness of one of the parties, the attorney determined he could not represent both sellers and buyers. He, therefore, contacted respondent and asked him to represent the Seamans.

Upon meeting the Seamans, respondent indicated that his fee would be $300.00. He also indicated they would be responsible for a $30.00 fee for recording the mortgage and deed and a $202.00 fee for title insurance. The Seamans immediately gave respondent a check in the amount of $532.00.

A review of the closing documents disclosed a discrepancy in the metes and bounds description. It was therefore decided the documents would be redrafted and an instrument executed with the lot and block number only. There was initially some confusion over which attorney was to prepare the new documents. However, approximately one month after the closing, respondent assumed full responsibility for completion of the matter.

Mr. and Mrs. Seaman thereafter called respondent on several occasions inquiring about the status of the matter. On one such occasion, Mr. Seaman urged respondent to complete the paperwork quickly, as he was concerned he would not qualify for a homestead rebate. Respondent assured him the mortgage and deed would be recorded without delay.

When it became apparent respondent had not filed or recorded the deed and mortgage, the Seamans retained a New York attorney to complete the unfinished aspects of the transaction. On November 15, 1982, the new attorney sent respondent a letter offering him an opportunity to complete all unfinished paperwork. Respondent was also advised that failure to do so would result in a complaint being filed with the Bar Association. Respondent failed to take any action or otherwise reply to the attorney's letter. Consequently, on November 23, 1982, the attorney sent respondent a final letter advising him that a

complaint was being filed with the Bar Association. Respondent did not reply.

A formal complaint was filed against respondent on September 12, 1984. The hearing was scheduled for and held on February 14, 1985. The mortgage and deed were finally recorded in the County Clerk's office on that date.

THE LEIGHTON MATTER

On July 11, 1977, respondent was retained by Harry Leighton, principal owner of a real estate brokerage firm known as the Academy Agency, to clear title to a piece of property the agency desired to sell. On that date, Mr. Leighton sent respondent a $500.00 retainer and asked him to "resolve this situation as quickly as possible." No written fee agreement was executed.

Over the next four years, Mr. Leighton made numerous telephone calls to respondent about the status of the matter. He also sent respondent nine separate letters, the majority of which demanded status reports and copies of all documents or letters pertaining to the matter. Respondent rarely returned the telephone calls and sent but three reply letters. Respondent testified that "there were telephone conversations in between, and after a while I didn't read his letters, they were just a nuisance." [1T97-17 to 20].*fn1

For four years respondent led Mr. Leighton to believe a bill to quiet title had been filed and was progressing satisfactorily. On at least two occasions, he provided Mr. Leighton with anticipated dates of resolution, only to have these dates pass without any further ...


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